Dallas Mavericks - 36-30 record last season. 7th seed in the playoffs. Lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 1st Round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
Ideal Rotation: Darren Collison, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman / Rodrigue Beaubois, OJ Mayo, Dahntay Jones, Jae Crowder, Elton Brand
Storyline/s: Mark Cuban had a plan for the offseason, but Dwight Howard and Deron Williams were not in on that plan, so plan B netted them Mayo, Brand and Kaman, then traded for Darren Collison. Dirk is going to be unavailable for the start of the season. Has the window of opportunity closed for them, considering that Dirk, Beaubois and Dominique Jones are the only players from the 2010-11 season still with the team (and the latter two did not even figure at all in the postseason title run)?
X-Factor/s: Can OJ Mayo prove himself to be a top-caliber-esque player? Can either Brand or Kaman come close to their 2006 Clippers form with the Mavericks?
Prognosis: Exiting first round of the playoffs.
Houston Rockets - 34-32 record last season. Missed the playoffs.
Ideal Rotation: Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, Omer Asik / Toney Douglas, Scott Machado, Carlos Delfino, Terrence Jones, Donatas Montejunas
Storyline/s: Just before the buzzer sounded, the Rockets traded for what they believe will be a true go-to-guy option in Harden. This after Orlando spurned their interest in Dwight Howard.
X-Factor/s: Lots of newcomers, but can the two key holdovers (Chandler and Patrick) steady the ship with all the new faces?
Prognosis: Missing the playoffs.
Memphis Grizzlies - 41-25 record last season. 5th seed in the playoffs. Lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1st Round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
Ideal Rotation: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol / Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, Quincy Pondexter, Darrell Arthur
Storyline/s: The indelible stigma from last season was their collapse against the Clippers in Game 1 of the playoffs. They did however stretch their matchup to the full seven games. Can these guys make the next step?
X-Factor/s: They missed Darrell Arthur's contributions last season. He returns, now recovered from the injury that he incurred. They were really bad from shooting outside, so they acquired Ellington to hopefully fix that hole. Wayne and Quincy are expected to plug the hole left by OJ Mayo.
Prognosis: Exiting the first round of the playoffs.
New Orleans Hornets - 21-45 record last season. Missed the playoffs.
Ideal Rotation: Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, Robin Lopez / Austin Rivers, Xavier Henry, Hakim Warrick, Ryan Anderson, Jason Smith
Storyline/s: The Hornets naturally struggled last season after having to deal with the Chris Paul trade drama in the short offseason. It did not help matters that one of the assets they managed to secure missed a chunk of the season due to injury. They lucked out on securing new ownership, then the rights to the top overall selection in the draft.
X-Factor/s: Greivis gets the starting job while Austin gets mentored on how to run the offense. AFA got some playing time from his Olympic run with Nigeria. Will it translate to an improved game this season?
Prognosis: Missing the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs - 50-16 record last season. Division Champions. Lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
Ideal Rotation: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw / Gary Neal, Danny Green, Stephen Jackson, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter, Dejuan Blair
Storyline/s: Do they still have one more run in them? They'll have to start it without Manu. They stood pat while the other contenders re-armed. Can they stay healthy?
Prognosis: Division Champs. Exiting in the Conference Semifinals